Travel, Teach, Live in Europe and Middle East
A couple months ago I took my first real trip to Ireland. Years ago while on a cruise ship tour, we stopped at an Irish port for a day but I do not think that counts. This was a 2 week trip I took with my wife and we visited a large portion of the island.
My wife, Sandra, had been telling me for the last couple years for trips to Ireland, one of her favourite places in the world. Now it had always been on my list as a place to visit and spend time, maybe a little bit to do with the Celtic roots but a lot to do with the fact that Ireland was the birthplace of Titanic. I have a direct connection with the story and am intrigued with the idea of finding a more about the birthplace of this fascinating ship.
When we arrived in Dublin was a little surprised at its size, it was larger than expected. The city and surrounding area have a population of well over 1 million people; it was more of a multicultural Center then I imagined.
Originally a Viking village, where those lads sure got around, Dublin has grown into a lively multi cultural city. We were in Dublin the end of March; there were exceptionally large crowds on Grafton Street, one of their main shopping areas.
I have visited several large cities during my travels, but Dublin has its own unique characteristics, for example, the Dublin doors. Many homes were designed the alike and the only factor that could make them unique where the doors so the variety of doors are fascinating.
I like the fact that there was a pub on every corner, many of them with live music. Dublin is also the birthplace of Guinness beer. We took a brewery tour located at St. James Gate, is a distinctly modern exhibit and no shortage of tourists, us included.
We visited Jameson distillery. I have been fortunate over the years to see many distilleries were pleasantly surprised with this tour. It is well designed, extremely enthusiastic guides and an intriguing twist on a tasting afterwards. I like whiskey, neat or with a little bit of water but how about cranberry juice. I was surprised! You will be too.
We left for Belfast; Sandra had never been there, so we did not know what to expect. The city's tourism has only started to developed the last few years, due to the recent troubles. We arrived early afternoon, and after an hour walking around Sandra I both commented at how amazed we were with the city. The thing that struck us first was how friendly everyone was.
We talked to one gentleman who worked for local tour company and told him how friendly we found Belfast. He told us that in the past, he had lived in a number of other large European cities and said "In many cases if somebody will walk since you knock you down to keep going without turning back; here in Belfast if somebody walks into you knocks you down, not only will they help you up, they will dust you off, bring you into a pub for a drink and then bring it home for the night."
I do not think there was much of an exaggeration.
We visited the Titanic Quarter, to see where it all began. While listening to the stories, I was able to discern the joy and pride that went into the building of Titanic and her sister ship Olympic and then the deep sadness that overwhelmed the city after the ship sank.
We spoke with many people who still had direct connections to the tragedy which is no surprise; there were thousands of workers from in and around Belfast who worked on her.
We drove along the coast visiting the Carrick a Rede rope bridge and then on to the Giants Causeway, where about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. This is a natural phenomenon that has to be seen at least once in a life.
We traveled to Galway; a city sometimes referred to as being bilingual is over 10% of the inhabitants still speak Irish as their first language. This is a fun city, the downtown core is extremely easy to walk around, and there is music everywhere. From here it is extremely easy to take a tour of Connemara.
We traveled to the Cliffs of Moher; currently in a competition to be named one of the new seven natural wonders of the world. As we stood up at the cliff's edge, the abrupt end of Ireland looking out into the North Atlantic, we could not help but feel in awe of what the forces of nature had produced.
We then to the Poulnabrone Dolmen (Irish for "hole of sorrows") is a portal tomb dating back probably between 4200 BC to 2900 BC.
We traveled to Dingle, to me one of the highlights of his beautiful island. I do not like using the word quaint because I think it is the best description I can think of for this little community. Have heard that music bloodline for Ireland, if this is the case the area in and around Dingle must be the heart.
We drove around Slea's Head Drive and saw more ancient ruins, incredible scenery, stone walls and sheep.
Our next day was in Killarney, also a remarkably easy community to stroll through and no shortage of exceptionally hospitable people who are interested in a chat.
We stayed in Cork and visited Blarney's Castle. Now I knew the story of the Blarney Stone; where according to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of the gab. I do not know why but Sandra told me that was the last thing I needed to do.
I was excited about seeing the castle, but I did not know where how wondrous the grounds where, it was so easy losing ourselves for a couple of hours wandering around the estate. A beautiful visit and a place you will have to give yourself time to enjoy.
We also visited another community just outside of Cork called Cobh (pronounced Cove). Back in 1912 this community, then known as Queenstown and was the last port of call for Titanic before she sailed out to the North Atlantic and her final resting place.
That story is powerful and well worth the visit, but after spending time reading about other Irish immigrants who had to leave their home to look for a better life during and then for years after the great potato famine, I felt a tightness in my heart.
We took two weeks for us to make the trip, and the feeling I had during our last day on Ireland was that I could hardly wait to go back.
If you have been to Ireland, you can understand my enthusiasm while describing this trip.
If you have not been it is high time to save his beautiful island on your list, and make plans sooner than later for your visit.
Now if, incredible scenery, amazing stories, fun people, outstanding music and lots of laughs are not high on your priority list; then do not bother visiting Ireland.
If the opposite is true, you may want to visit Rhapsody Tours. Click on our Ireland, The Birthplace of Titanic Tour to see them this might be of interest to you.
We have planned a wonderfully paced, quality tour visiting all the places I mentioned plus much more. If you have any further questions, please feel free to email me directly.
If you have any stories about Ireland you would like to share or for that matter any travel related themes you would like to discuss or any other travel stories you want to share; send them off to us. We will read the all and post our favorites.
Drop me a note, I would like to know what you think.
Until next time Safe Travels and Have Fun!